Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) by Square Enix had a very rough start when it first launched on September 30, 2010. Overly complicated crafting left players feeling lost and confused, the interface was sluggish and cumbersome, the character controls were clunky, and let’s not even get started on the lack of interaction with the always popular chocobos! There wasn’t even a Market Board (FFXIV’s version of an auction house or broker) at the beginning of the game and the lack of a search function while shopping for items was utterly exasperating. Players had to check the player-run NPCs called Retainers one-by-one to search for the crafted item they wanted to buy, which was so tedious that some players ended their subscriptions as a result.
After losing hundreds of players and realizing how incredibly unhappy the existing players were, Square Enix finally began taking steps to rebuild the game later that year. The Square Enix President at the time, Yoichi Wada, announced in December 2010 that the development team was being restructured. This new team became responsible for creating content for the released version of the game while developing a brand new game alongside it. Additionally, the players who had stayed despite the state of the game were able to access the game for free during the development of patch 2.0.
Rather than simply cover up the mistakes of the past, Square Enix decided to make the destruction of the world part of the game’s lore. There was an in-game event which would go down in Final Fantasy history as “The Calamity” and NPCs in the current version make references to it even now. There were many non-playable characters who were in the former version and did not make the cut for Version 2.0, but some of the current NPCs did survive and they often have interesting dialogue which references to the game’s past.
On August 27, 2013, FFXIV began anew with the title “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn”, which was set five years after The Calamity. The game featured a new game engine, improved servers, a polished interface, revamped gameplay, and a new story. The first major patch which followed on December 17, 2013 improved the game even further which brought player housing, PvP battle arenas, more quests, and the very first 24-man raid. The game reviews jumped from overwhelmingly negative to exceedingly positive and players were finally playing the MMO the franchise deserved. FFXIV went on to release one expansion titled Heavensward, with another one on the way in mid-2017.
I recently began a 14-day trial of FFXIV, which provides access to a large amount of A Realm Reborn pre-expansion content. I began my adventure with a Lalafell, the smallest race in the game, and chose the Arcanist as my very first job. One of the main criticisms that MMO veterans have when trying FFXIV for the first time is the slower pace of combat. After coming from MMOs such as Black Desert Online, World of WarCraft, and Blade and Soul, I definitely noticed the much longer global cooldown, which is much slower than I am accustomed to. However, as I gained more skills for the Arcanist job, it became clear that the longer cooldown is present to provide players a moment to make important spell choices while also dodging enemy attacks. Therefore, like most MMOs, combat can feel extremely plodding at first, but will soon become more interesting as more abilities are acquired.
After playing the Arcanist job for a few hours, I was ready to try out something new. I didn’t have to create a brand new character, however. Once my Lalafell completed her level 10 Arcanist quest, she was free to pursue other jobs. I spoke to an NPC about joining a guild of Rogues and I was soon off on an adventure again, stabbing and slicing on the same character who was debuffing and spell-slinging not that long ago. In fact, she was even able to use one of the spells she had learned as an Arcanist during her short time as a Rogue. In addition, this same Lalafell also briefly lived the peaceful life of an angler who then went on to cook up what she had caught. She did not have to fight her way through enemies to do so, which was a nice change of pace.
There are a lot of little immersing details that I noticed during my time with the game. These include a realistic day and night cycle, the mouths of characters moving as players type in /say, an emote system with a “Change Pose” option that allows players to choose how their characters stand and sit, and facial expressions which can be mixed and matched with the other emotes in the game. Players can rent rooms at the inn or purchase their own home where they can put their characters to bed to gain an experience bonus when they log back in. There are also a lot of non-combat minion pets to collect, one of which is the Wind-up Sun which was specifically designed to create picture-perfect lighting. With features like these, the MMO begins to feel like less of a fantasy game and more like a virtual world, such as Second Life.
If you are a person who enjoys dungeons and raids, but can never seem to find enough people to form a group, FFXIV has features for you as well. The Duty Finder is a matchmaking tool which randomly places players into a group with other random members. Similarly, the Raid Finder is the tool players can use to create their own groups. Players can list a group or apply to another person’s group in order to find players to fill in empty spots. Also, raids do not have to be a large time commitment, unlike other MMOs which can turn raiding into feeling like a second job. The Trial dungeons and raids allow players to jump straight to the boss without having to fight to get there. This saves a lot of time and allows the players who may only have a small window of game time to enjoy end-game content alongside the players who have plenty of free time on their hands.
If you have never played Final Fantasy XIV and you’re searching for a new game to try, you should head over to www.finalfantasyxiv.com or FFXIV’s Steam page and sign up. In order to hinder currency sellers and other negative behaviour, trial restrictions include not being able to send messages via /tell, /yell, or /shout, a level cap of 20, no trading, no posting on the Market Board, and more. Despite these numerous restrictions, trial players can still have a lot of fun and can see enough content that will allow them to decide if they wish to call the world of Eorzea home.